We all know what stress feels like. It has a huge impact on our moods, energy and hormones. SO much so in fact, that it can completely change your menstrual cycle. In today’s article we are going to take a look at how stress impacts your female hormones, what these hormones do in the body, and what you can do to reduce the impact of stress. It is possible to have regular pain free periods and removing high stress levels from your life can go a long way towards achieving this.

Firstly, let’s take a look at what a ‘stress’ actually is. We often think of it as emotional worry and anxiety, but it can be caused by a lot of other things too.

  • Dietary stress – caused by a poor diet filled with processed foods and sugar
  • Physical stress in the body – such as an illness or disease state
  • Insomnia or a lack of good quality sleep
  • Lack of movement puts stress on the body
  • Medications can also cause stress on the liver and body
  • Undiagnosed food intolerances and other inflammatory issues
  • Relationship stress
  • Parenting stress
  • Financial stress

The list can go on, but I am sure you get the picture.

Stress Hormones

When stress is triggered in our body due to any of the above, we release stress hormones. One in particular called ‘cortisol’ is responsible for creating hormonal dysregulation. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, and when we are chronically stressed for a long time, this cortisol production cannot keep up with the bodies demands for it. This is when things begin to go pear shaped for your health and hormones. Your bodies cortisol production diminishes, and you begin to feel exhausted, unable to cope with stress like you use to, and you are now on the path to burnout.

Before we move onto how cortisol can wreak havoc with your female sex hormones, it’s important to know what these hormones are. You have two main female hormones that control your menstrual cycle and hormone health, and they are progesterone and estrogen.

Female sex hormones

Progesterone has many functions, but two of its main ones are regulating your menstrual cycle and supporting your body to maintain a pregnancy once conception has occurred. Some of the most common signs of low progesterone include:

  • Irregular or abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Infertility
  • Frequent miscarriage
  • Spotting during your cycle

Estrogen is also very important for your reproductive health. Too much or too little can have far reaching consequences. The basic functions of estrogen include allowing the female body to mature and develop breasts and a menstrual cycle, as well as playing a vital role in ovulation and fertility in the long term.

Some common signs of low estrogen include:

  • Infrequent menstruation
  • Low sex drive
  • Mood swings
  • Dryness of the vagina
  • Hot flushes
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Insomnia

And the effects of high estrogen can include:

  • PMS
  • Heavy or light bleeding
  • Weight gain around hips and thighs
  • Fibroids or fibrocystic breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Depression or anxiety

Let’s take a look at how stress effects these very important female hormones.

Cortisol and progesterone

Now, something the body does when it is under chronic stress is use your female hormone progesterone to create more cortisol. It is called the progesterone steal. This effectively leaves you low in progesterone, which may cause you to begin having irregular menstrual cycles, mood swings, low sex drive and infertility. It can also cause your estrogen to become high as a direct response to the low progesterone. This can in turn cause you to begin having any of the symptoms listed above for high estrogen.

 How can Naturopathy help with stress and hormones?

The driver of the hormonal cascade described above is stress, which is good news in regard to healing your body and getting it back into balance. The key is to reduce your stress load! When it comes to Naturopathy, we have many tools that we use to lower your bodies stress levels and balance hormones. These include but are not limited to, herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, energetic medicine, dietary changes and specific lifestyle adjustments to suit you and your health needs.

On an emotional/mental level, it’s also important to look at your perceptions and the things that you perceive to be stressful. Perceptions of pressure and urgency create a lot of the modern day stress that we feel, and can cause us to run ourselves off our feet in order to not let anyone else down. Changing the perceptions that we hold around what we should be and do can quite literally change the way our body experiences stress, and also change our lives to better serve our health and wellbeing.

If you are ready to make the necessary changes to reduce stress in your life and get your hormones back into balance, you can book in to see me HERE. Together we will work out the best plan for your unique needs, and get your body back on the road to balance.